For all the big-eared kids of the world, for the runts, the ugly ducklings, the picked-on, for anyone who’s ever been “different,” may we present to you Walt Disney’s Dumbo. Produced on a tight budget after the previous year’s costly Fanstasia and Pinocchio, Dumbo was a short, sweet story of acceptance and motherly love.
When the stork delivers to Mrs. Jumbo a baby elephant, the rest of the circus animals coo over how cute the little tyke is. That is, until he sneezes and the droopiest set of ears you ever saw flap out the side of his head. Mocking his goofy appearance, the snotty elephants name the baby “Dumbo.”
Everybody laughs at little Dumbo: the clowns make him the butt of their jokes, the other elephants gossip, and the circus crowds tease endlessly. When things go too far, Mrs. Jumbo takes matters into her own trunk, paddling a cruel youngster in the circus audience. The ensuing chaos gets Mrs. Jumbo confined to a cage, and young Dumbo is left with only his pal, Timothy Mouse, to comfort him.
The two buddies accidentally get drunk, setting off a trippy “Pink Elephants on Parade” sequence. When they wake in the branches of a tall tree, Dumbo makes a discovery that will change his life forever: those floppy ears actually are good for something.
Unlike Fantasia and Pinocchio, which became hits only after years of re-issues, Dumbo was an instant success. Time has not diminished the film’s message or impact. As long as the world has its share of outcasts, there will always be room for a big-eared elephant named Dumbo.